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The Russian Anarchists - Paul Avrich

The Russian Anarchists - Paul Avrich

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Published by: Fionnán Ó Haragáin on Aug 27, 2011
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01/12/2013

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
NOTE:
In
the spelling of Russian names,
I
have adhered, by andlarge, to the transliteration system of the Library of Congress,without the soft sign and diacritical marks. Exceptions havebeen made
(a)
when other spellings have become more or lessconventional (Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander
Herzen,
Angelica Balabanoff, Trotsky, and Gorky),
(b)
in two caseswhere the persons involved spent most of their careers in theWest and
themselves
used a different spelling in the Latin script(Alexander Schapiro and Boris Yelensky), and
(c)
in
a fewdiminutive names
(Fanya, Senya,
Sanya).
Vl
CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSINTRODUCTION
v
3
PART
I:
1.
THE
STORMY
PETREL
2.
THE
TERRORISTS
3.
THE
SYNDICALISTS
4.
ANARCHISM AND ANTI­
INTELLECTUALISM
19059
35
7291PART II: 1917
5.
THE
SECOND STORM
6.
THE OCTOBER INSURRECTION
7.
THE
ANARCHISTS AND
THE
BOLSHEVIK REGIME
8.
THE
DOWNFALL OFRUSSIAN ANARCHISM
EPILOGUE
CHRONOLOGYANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHYINDEX
123152
171204234
255259
291
VU
 
INTRODUCTION
Although the idea of a stateless society can be traced back toancient times, anarchism as an organized movement of socialprotest is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Emerging inEurope during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, itwas, like liberalism and socialism, primarily a response to thequickening pace of political and economic centralization broughton by the industrial revolution. The anarchists shared with theliberals a common hostility to centralized government, and withthe socialists they shared a deep hatred of the capitalist system.But they held no brief for the "reformism, parliamentarism, andunrelieved doctrinairism" of their competitors; nothing less thana clean sweep of "bourgeois civilization," with its growingregimentation and callous indifference to human suffering, couldsatisfy their "thirst for the absolute.?' Focusing their attack onthe state and on capitalism as the chief institutions of domination and exploitation, the anarchists called for a social revolution that would abolish all political and economic authorityand usher in a decentralized society based on the voluntary
co-:
operation of free individuals.In Russia at the turn of the century, as in Western Europeseveral decades earlier, it was the arrival of the industrial revolution and the social dislocation it produced that called a militant anarchist movement into being.
It
is not surprising,then,that the Russian anarchists should have found themselves debating many of the same questions that had long been preoccupying their comrades in the West, notably the relationshipbetween the anarchist movement and the newly emergent working class and the place of terrorism in the impending revolution.Yet however much Russian anarchism owed its predecessors inWestern Europe, it was deeply rooted in a long tradition ofnative radicalism stretching back to the peasant revolts of StenkaRazin and Emelian Pugachev, a tradition which was shortly toreach a climax in the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917. The socialcreed propagated by the Russian anarchists was itself a curious
1
Victor Serge,
Memoires d'un revolutionnaire
(Paris, 1951), pp.18-19.
3
 
INTRODUCTION
blend of western and indigenous elements; originating in theWest with Godwin, Stimer, and Proudhon, it subsequentlyfiltered through the prisms of Bakuninism, Kropotkinism, andnative
Populism,thus
acquiring a distinctive Russian hue.
The
character of Russian anarchism, moreover, was shaped by therepressive political environment into which it
had
been born.
Tsar
Nicholas II, by thwarting all efforts by enlightened mem­bers of Russian society to reform the autocracy and alleviatesocial and economic distress, drove
his
opponents to seek re­dress in a frenzy of terrorism and violence.Anarchism in Russia flourished and waned with the fortunesof the revolutionary movement as a whole. When rebellionerupted in 1905, the anarchists jubilantly hailed it as the spon­taneous mass upheaval forecast by Bakunin a generation before,and they threw themselves into
the
fray with bombs and pistolsin hand. However, failing to build up a coherent organization orto penetrate the expanding
labor
movement on any significantscale, they remained a loose collection of obstreperous littlegroups whose activities
had
a relatively minor impact on thecourse of the uprising.
The
episodic character of the opening sec­tion of this book
is,
in
part
at least, a reflection of the disarraywithin the anarchist movement during its formative years. Afterthe 1905 revolt was suppressed,the movement fell dormant untilthe First World
War
set the stage for a new uprising. Then, in1917, the sudden collapse of the monarchy and the breakdownof political and economic authority which followed convincedthe anarchists
that
the millennium
had
indeed arrived, and theyapplied themselves to the task of sweeping away what remainedof the state and transferring the land and factories to the com­mon people.
The
Russian anarchists have long been ignored by those whoregard all history through the eyes of the victors. Political suc­cess, however, is by no means the sole measure of the worth of amovement; the belief
that
triumphant causes alone should in­terest the historian leads, as James Joll recently observed, to theneglect of much in the past
that
is valuable and curious, andnarrows our view of the
world."
Thus
if
one is to appreciate thetrue range and complexity of the Revolution of 1917 and the
2
James Joll,
The Anarchists
(London,
1964),
p. 11.
4
INTRODUCTION
events
that
followed in its wake,
the
role played by the anarchistsmust be taken into account. In the turmoil of insurrection andcivil war, the anarchists attempted to carry out their program of"direct action"
-workers'
control of production, the creation offree rural and urban communes, partisan warfare against theenemies of a libertarian society.
They
acted as the gadfly of totalrebellion, brooking no compromise with the annihilation of gov­ernment and private property, refusing to accept anything
but
the
Golden Age of
full
liberty and equality. In the end, however,a new despotism arose upon the ruins of
the
old, and the anarch­ist movement was stamped out.
The
few who survived, thoughthey suffered the melancholy of defeat, nevertheless clung to thebelief
that
ultimately their vision of a stateless utopia wouldtriumph. "Bolshevism is of the past," Alexander Berkman couldwrite in 1925, when his Russian comrades were in prison orexile.
"The
future belongs to man and his liberty."!
B
Alexander Berkman,
The "Anti-Climax": The Concluding Chapter
of
My Russian Diary "The Bolshevik
Myth"
(Berlin, 1925), p. 29.
5

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